Project background

The contraction of biological diversity (number, variety and variability of living organisms) affects not only the natural environment, but also our economic and social goals. The importance of preserving biodiversity, and the possible consequences of not doing so, makes it an international issue. It is important to maintain and strengthen ecosystems by giving them space to develop all their functions and to flexibly react on climate change and human effects. The EU has provided a strong legal basis for nature conservation as foundation for the EU natural heritage with the Birds and Habitats Directives. The latter establishes the Natura 2000 network, which is not a system of strict nature reserves where all the human activities are excluded; on the contrary it can include nature reserves privately owned and/or where human activity is strongly present. For many reasons, the Natura 2000 management and implementation is often difficult and controversial. The application of such Directive is often very difficult, because of lack of proper instruments at national level to concretely implement it, and the combination of economic interests affecting the target environment. Severe environment pressure is caused i.e. from tourism, agriculture and infrastructure, and presence of several alien species of flora. Overall, the fragmentation is very high and difficult to maintain.
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Hence the need to achieve good conservation outcomes by defining a precise and accurate environmental conservation strategy. Furthermore, it is crucial to carry out targeted communication and sensitisation activities designed to enhance awareness in the population at large and in decision-makers toward the importance of preserving the environment. Transnational cooperation plays a key role in the definition and adoption of such strategy by making the most of know-how transfer and successful methods adopted by the PP, which can be shared and capitalised.
SEE Countries are at different stages of the application of EEC Directive 92/43 for the implementation of project "Natura 2000." EU member countries Hungary, Italy, Romania, Greece, Austria and Bulgaria have already defined their SAC/SCI (EEC Directive 92/43) and designed their SPA (09/147/UE), but they still have to either process or implement management plans for sites and action plans for habitats and species, ensuring the priority of habitats and species threatened by environmental variations associated with climate changes. Countries like Serbia are working on identifying "Natura 2000" sites, collecting and processing data to locate the areas and establish criteria for defining the perimeter of said sites, besides developing and implementing the action plans. The exchange of knowledge and experience while said processes unfold is crucial in bridging gaps and in providing a coordinated response to the EU Directive. Some habitats and species protected by the Bird and Habitat Directives are critically threatened by environmental variations associated with climate changes and wrong management (carried on for other aims, i.e. agriculture, tourism, etc.), and this generates multiple conflicts that impact the natural heritage. Freshwater habitats and species (fish, amphibians, some birds, insects) are affected: by the rising sea level in coastal regions; by the lack of freshwater in rivers, marshes and underground; by the abundance of exotic tropical species, such as Procambarus clarckii, favoured by warm winters. Activities envisaged by project BE-NATUR for conservation of the natural heritage and landscape in South East European Countries are designed to ensure better management and organisation of "Natura 2000" Sites. Priority is given to habitats and species protected by EEC Directive 92/43 and by EU Directives 09/147/UE, both endemic or mainly distributed in these eco-regions and/or migrating across SEE eco-region and/or threatened by environmental variations caused by climate changes and human activity.

General objective

Face the loss of biodiversity by defining common action plans and strategies for preserving the natural heritage and landscape in SEE, with special focus on habitats and species protected by Directives 92/43/EEC and 09/147/UE regarding typical eco-regions and/or sites threatened by environmental variations caused by climate changes and mismanagement.
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Specific objectives

  • influence environmental protection policies by preparing joint transnational action plans and starting up procedures for their adoption nationwide (Ref. WP3);
  • bridge the gaps between PP areas with regard to implementation of EU Directives, management levels and know-how on management practices by analysing the framework and sharing both know-how and experience (Ref. WP3);
  • improve the quality of the environment through integrated approaches and cooperation activities designed to yield concrete tools and results that favour long-term sustainable growth not only in the areas involved but also in other sites that are not directly involved (Ref. WP3);
  • improve the protection level of target habitats and species, and strengthen cooperation between public and private sectors to boost long lasting environmental conservation through direct and indirect interventions studied to ensure conservation of both habitats and species (Ref. WP4);
  • establish a good balance between socioeconomic development, and environmental protection both through practical interventions and awareness-building actions (Ref. WP2,5).

Expected results

BE-NATUR will yield concrete results and tools, allowing the definition of possible growth pathways, making the most of shared know-how and experience ensured by transnational cooperation. The principal outcomes of planned activities are described below:
  • Transnational Joint Strategy for the better management and improvement of Natura 2000 sites, as steering planning tool for the future environment protection activities (Ref. WP3)
  • a monitoring tool that takes into account specific devices already prepared at EU level (and in other cooperative projects), and the requirements of the Directive; the data collected will be useful for assessing the success achieved, and activities will provide a series of comparable data that can be exploited for future assessments and evaluations of the evolution of the situation (Ref WP3);
  • Joint Transnational Action Plans on common target habitats and species selected by the PP to concretely respond to EEC Directive 92/43; the plans will be adopted locally and submitted for approval to the competent national bodies of each PP country, in compliance with the required procedures (Ref. WP3);
  • direct and indirect interventions (pilot projects) for implementation of the Transnational Joint Strategy, which will be carried out through public-private cooperation with the aim of sustaining them also on completion of the project and of replicating them in other areas of the same region (Ref. WP4).